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 A landlord in New York reports that his long-term tenants skipped out — and took the copper wiring with them.

The landlord told a reporter that, along with wiring, the tenants took hot water tanks, two mailboxes and all of the buildings’ garbage cans. He calculates the loss at nearly $4,000.

The tenants had lived in the property for four years.

While many landlords covet long-term tenants, there’s no guarantee that long-termers won’t turn into deadbeats. The longer a tenant remains, the stronger their sense of ownership becomes. Many landlords fall into a complacency trap when it comes to long-term tenants. It’s easy to believe that these rentals can operate on autopilot.

To avoid this false sense of security, it is important to take steps to keep long-term tenants on the right path:

Always inspect the property before the end of the orginal lease term. Asking for a renewed lease — assuming the property is in good condition — is usually a better option than going month-to-month for the long haul.

Continue to inspect the property at regular intervals to catch a tenant that is turning sour on the rental or experiencing hardships that make them a greater risk.

Make sure you update contact information that will change over time.

Often this destructive behavior is accompanied by other problems, like late or missed rent payments, and other less serious rule-breaking. Make sure you spot the pattern, and take action at the first sign of trouble. If you don’t push back, the problems will escalate.

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